Feb. 25, 2022 By Christian Murray
Many Dutch Kills and Queensbridge residents have been calling for assistance in dealing with quality-of-life issues stemming from the local homeless shelters, according to Queens Community Board 1.
Florence Koulouris, the district manager for Community Board 1, told board members at their monthly meeting Feb. 15 that there have been about two thousand 911 calls over the past year from Dutch Kills and Queensbridge residents regarding incidents at the surrounding shelters.
There are several shelters in the Dutch Kills/Queensbridge area–all within close proximity to one another.
“Our local residents have seen remarkable events occurring… and are fearful for their safety, due to the lack of desperately needed services for the [shelter] residents placed in hotels,” Koulouris said.
She said that there have been complaints about public defecation, urination, intimidation, sexual activity, drug use—and that there are video tapes of homeless residents involved in trespassing and theft.
She gave a breakdown of the number of complaints concerning shelter residents in the Dutch Kills/Queensbridge section of Long Island City for the 12-month period through Feb.1, 2022.
Koulouris said that there were 107 911 calls concerning residents of the Quality Inn LIC, located at 30-03 40th Ave.; 219 911 calls pertaining to the residents at the Sleep Inn Hotel at 38-77 13th St.; 1,385 911 calls—leading to 51 arrests—at Pam’s Place, a women’s shelter located at 40-03 29th St., which opened in 2015 and was the former Verve Hotel.
At the Vue Hotel, located at 40-47 22nd St., there were 240 911 calls, leading to two arrests. The data, Koulouris said, was provided by the NYPD 114th Precinct.
Koulouris told board members that the complaints at Pam’s Place have jumped significantly since the DHS removed its “peace officers.” The peace officers, a unit of DHS, provided additional security. The peace officers, however, vacated most shelters more than a year ago due to budget constraints.
George Stamatiades, chair of the Dutch Kills Civic Association, said that residents in the area have been lodging complaints but have gotten nowhere.
“We have been complaining to DHS but it falls on deaf ears,” Stamatiades told the Queens Post.
He said that DHS is just warehousing people at the hotels and not taking care of the medical needs of the residents.
“Many of these people need medical attention and psychological help…and they are not addressing the problem,” Stamatiades said. “When someone walks down the street yelling ‘go f$$K yourself’ for no reason or assaults people then that person needs help.”
Stamatiades said that residents and local business people are concerned for their safety. Furthermore, he said, DHS needs to address the issue since it is straining police resources at a time when crime is on the rise.
“The police are being stretched so thin…do they really need to respond to all these 911 calls.”
The shelters do have private security, but Stamatiades said that they have not been effective in combatting problems outside the facilities.
The complaints and concerns are not new. In fact, on July 27, 2020, local leaders from the Queensbridge Tenant Association, Ravenswood Tenant Association and various business groups wrote a joint letter with the Dutch Kills Civic Association to Mayor Bill de Blasio expressing the same concerns.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, our neighborhood has seen an unprecedented increase in homeless activity and hotel-converted homeless shelters,” the letter reads. “Within the past few months, we have personally witnessed and heard from our neighbors that many LIC residents, employees, businesses and patrons have been subject to solicitation, aggressive panhandling and harassment that threatens the safety of our community.”
The letter also argued that the shelter residents were not getting the supportive services they needed.
The Department of Homeless Services did not respond to several e-mails over the past week asking how it was addressing residents’ concerns.
The Dutch Kills area also includes two hotel sites for individuals who have been recently incarcerated— known as re-entry sites. One site is the Fairfield Hotel, located at 29-27 40th Rd., where there have been 414 911 calls–leading to six arrests–according to Koulouris.
Information pertaining to the other location was not available.
These sites are not homeless shelters, and the facilities are overseen by the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
A spokesperson for the MOCJ said that the agency takes the safety of its resident and the public seriously.
“All of our re-entry service sites take the safety of those we are serving and the communities in which we operate as a top priority,” the MOCJ spokesperson said. “Contracted security is present at each site, while the programming we provide focuses on supporting individuals through services for jobs, mental and physical health, addiction recovery, permanent housing, and other issues.”
Council Member Julie Won, who took office last month and represents the area, said that she is trying to work with homeowners, renters and the shelter residents to address these concerns, while noting that, “No one person deserves or garners more respect than any other individual in our neighborhood.”
“I have been working in partnership with the Mayor and Comptroller to ensure our city’s taxpayer dollars are funding local human services organizations. Our local human service providers do the work on the ground to proactively prevent evictions, intervene in times of crisis for public safety, and provide substance abuse and mental health services to those at risk. I will continue to work with all of our community members to ensure that everyone feels safe and cared for in our district.”
Stamatiades, meanwhile, says that he will just continue to try to bring residents’ concerns to the city’s attention.
“All we can do is try to keep their feet to the fire and hope one day they will listen.”